Home Interview: Behind RWBY: Arrowfell With Designer James Montagna

Interview: Behind RWBY: Arrowfell With Designer James Montagna

RWBY: Arrowfell was released recently, giving fans of the series an incredible experience that puts them right in the boots of the leading Huntresses. If you’re still on the fence about the game or would like to learn more about it then our review might help. In addition to the review, Anime Corner was lucky enough to interview RWBY: Arrowfell designer and writer James Montagna. Mr. Montagna discussed the team’s love for RWBY, his favorite characters, and design decisions.

Q: How many members of the dev team are RWBY fans?

James Montagna: I think we all came to love RWBY even more deeply through the process of creating this game! Some members of the team already knew it well, and others became hardcore fanatics; one programmer in particular comes to mind. As for myself, I was on board early with curiosity when the series was first introduced with its action-packed trailers. However, once I knew WayForward would be bringing a RWBY game to life, I decided to dive in for myself and really get to know the series as deeply as possible. I was really glad I did. It’s such a rich universe, and as I immersed myself in Remnant, I was increasingly excited about the prospect of RWBY: Arrowfell and the stories we could tell with it. Personally, I ended up buying merchandise, art books, graphic novels, and even attending RTX in Texas, all for the sake of RWBY.

Q: Were you wary of the mixed reception RWBY: Grimm Eclipse received?

James: To be honest, I felt it was better to focus on the game we were making here and intentionally didn’t indulge in other RWBY games for the sake of keeping blinders on and avoiding any sort of influence on what a RWBY game should look like. So, I haven’t played that title or looked into the reception of it, but I know it takes a lot of love to complete the development of any game and personally respect that the game exists. I’m pleased we can provide players with further options of ways to enjoy the world of RWBY alongside it.

Q: What part of the creation process did you like the most? What about the most challenging?

James: One of my responsibilities in developing RWBY: Arrowfell was writing much of the character dialogue, which was a total blast. I’m not afraid to admit that when I was younger, I used to indulge in “role play” internet chats and forums, which is really like a sort of online improv. The reason I mention this is because I believe this experience prepared me for this sort of work! Writing the character dialogue was really a matter of role playing as each character. Once I got to know the character inside out—their mentality, motives, ambitions, speaking tone, etc.—I could just act out the scenario as them, and the dialogue flowed naturally.
As for the most challenging part of creating RWBY: Arrowfell, I feel it’s the same as any other title: managing ambition versus feasibility. We always want to make games bigger and better. That said, I feel we managed to provide a great value this time, and there’s a lot to enjoy!

Q: As a developer and as a gamer, can you tell us what makes RWBY: Arrowfell unique or special?

James: As a developer…getting to collaborate with the crew behind the show itself was a treat, and an honor. The close collaboration brought a strong level of authenticity to the game that I’m sure players will be able to feel. And that brings me to the gamer side of what makes RWBY: Arrowfell unique! Since the cutscenes are created by the show staff and the story is entirely canonical, playing through the game almost feels like experiencing a lost episode of the show in the form of a game. And a great part about it being in this form is the ability to leisurely explore the world of RWBY in a whole new way.

Q: Who is your favorite character in RWBY (both the series and game if different)? Do you have a favorite enemy?

James: Ah, well…I may be just a bit receptive to bratty “tsundere” energy. I’m attracted to Weiss Schnee for both her elegance and personality, and the fact she has a drop of that aforementioned energy seals the deal. In RWBY: Arrowfell, her Glyph Semblance is really the most versatile since she can use it for shielding from enemy projectile attacks, attacking multiple on-screen enemies, as well as mobility. With a multipurpose use like that, I really like to make sure she gets spoiled with Skill Point upgrades first when I play.

As for my favorite enemy, for the sake of the spoiler-avoidant crowd, I’ll have to leave that a mystery.

Q: Arrowfell introduces Team BRIR. They work for money, not honor. What inspired these characters? Were you worried about introducing new characters to the fandom? What makes them similar/different to Team RWBY? Which one of them is your favorite?

James: Introducing new characters to the series is one of the things that we knew would make RWBY: Arrowfell extra meaningful, and introducing a Huntress team like Team BRIR really emphasizes this. I feel like the idea was to introduce a skillful team that came off as if they were one-upping Team RWBY at first, but actually have a bit more depth behind them. I don’t want to share too much as not to completely give away their role in the game, however, so everyone will just have to play RWBY: Arrowfell to find out more!

As for my fav…you can’t deny Ruda Tilleroot’s drills are just awesome.

Q: Can you give us a general idea of how the game development process works?

James: It’s different depending on who you ask, since so much goes into it and there’s no one way to do things, but for my sake the development truly begins with a proposal. When a game is pitched, usually it’s a brief document or several slides of information detailing the idea we’ve had. Especially for a game like RWBY: Arrowfell, that document gets shared with all parties involved, and if funded and greenlit, development can begin! A gameplan in the form of a GDD, or Game Design Document, is created, which is a huge tome of information that essentially details out every possible aspect of the game, like a blueprint for how to build it. As production begins, the staff begins to get to work building it based on the provided specifications. The director works with artists, programmers, sound designers, and more to guide the vision, make adjustments where necessary, and even gets hands-on sometimes. Anyway, that’s a pretty general and simplified look at the process!

Q: Can you share with us some of your favorite titles that strongly inspired you to become a game developer? 

James: Personally, I grew up playing Nintendo games, which are created by some of the most world-class game developers out there. Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Zelda, Kirby, and even slightly more obscure ones like Rhythm Heaven have all struck a chord with me over the years, and made me realize that games are one of the most powerful mediums of entertainment. In fact, games are one of the things that brought my sister and I together as siblings growing up since we used to play together all of the time. That experience enjoying games with her is what most inspired me to become a developer myself, in hopes of bringing other people together through the medium of games.

When playing RWBY: Arrowfell, you’ll be able to feel a culmination of gaming experiences from both myself and the rest of the development staff coming together to present something brand-new.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a game enjoyable? 

James: Video games are a culmination of the arts. It’s as if storybooks, movies, animation, paintings, sculpture, music, all combined together…it’s a bit of everything, really! But the most unique is the element of interactivity. And I believe that is the key. What makes a game enjoyable is not only the way they can delight all of our senses, but also the ways we can partake in them. So with that, I hope players everywhere will enjoy partaking in the unique feel of RWBY: Arrowfell!

That was our interview with James Montagna. We’d like to thank him once again for taking the time to speak with us and other fans of RWBY. RWBY: Arrowfell is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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